CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When life and death hangs in the balance, every second counts.

The NBC Charlotte Defenders team is learning of hundreds of 911 calls where the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department had no officers available to respond.   

When a Priority 1 call comes in, the department’s goal is to respond in seven minutes. In several cases, it took officers anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours to respond.

During three weeks in December, the Defenders team learned there were about 600 calls to 911 with no officers immediately available. One victim said if officers had responded quicker, the suspect may have been caught.

The NBC Charlotte Defenders team found cases that highlighted the issues, including a domestic violence call on December 16 at a hotel in the Epicentre. 

In another case on December 3, an 18 year-old man says he called 911 about someone threatening to shoot him. The victim, who asked his face not be shown, said it happened while he pulled up to a traffic light on Church Street near Romare Bearden Park.

“It’s terrifying," the victim told NBC Charlotte. "In my mind, while I'm driving, this guy could start shooting at any second.”

The victim says someone in another car targeted him for no apparent reason.

“Just hearing that someone is threatening to shoot me, you would think there would be officers there as quickly as possible,” he said.

However, there was no immediate response. In fact, according to CMPD records, the victim called 911 at 1:01 a.m. but police did not arrive until 1:21 a.m.  

That’s despite the fact that the call was classified as a Priority 1 call -- the highest level of emergency.

“I'm thinking, ‘Where are the police?’  ‘Where are the police?' the entire time,” he said.

The NBC Charlotte Defenders team looked into other cases, and found dispatchers relaying a troubling message.

“I'm showing no units available city wide,” a dispatcher said in an audio recording NBC Charlotte obtained from Broadcastify.

That audio recording is not a fluke.Records show it took police more than two hours to respond to the domestic call on December 16, which came in just before 2:30 a.m.  

It was also a Priority 1 call. The department’s goal for Priority 1 calls is seven minutes.

CMPD Lt. Brad Koch told NBC Charlotte that properly investigating crime scenes takes time.

“We don't want to be rushing call to call to call,” Lt. Koch said.

However, he acknowledges the department could use additional officers.

“I'm not a genie and I can't create officers," Lt. Koch said. "We're doing a very vigorous and robust marketing campaign."

Despite the slow response, CMPD was able to make an arrest in the domestic violence case. A 50-year-old woman was taken to the hospital, and 29 year-old Felix Orin was charged for assault on a female.

However in the December 3 incident, the 18-year-old man says by the time police arrived 20 minutes later, the suspect was long gone.

“They probably could have caught him," the victim said. "He was within 10 feet of my vehicle for a good five minutes."

NBC Charlotte was able to find some cases where officers were not immediately available to respond, but were still able to arrive in time to meet the department’s goal.